Apple has released a range of new emojis in its latest update, including a ‘pregnant man’ and a ‘pregnant person’, reigniting the controversy that was sparked when the Unicode Consortium officially approved them in September 2021.
At the time they were first announced, emoji encyclopaedia ‘Emojipedia’ wrote a blog post titled ‘Why is There a Pregnant Man Emoji?’.
They wrote that “the new pregnancy options may be used for representation by trans men, non-binary people, or women with short hair—though, of course, use of these emojis is not limited to these groups.”
Prior to their confirmation in September, Emojipedia wrote in July 2021 that the emojis recognise that “pregnancy is possible for some transgender men and non-binary people” and would be “additions to the existing pregnant woman emoji”.
The response to the new emojis has been mixed with some welcoming them as “inclusive” and others describing them as “misinformation”, “an intentional way to shift public thinking and legitimize an absurd political agenda” and reiterating the fact that “men can’t have babies”.
The fact is that Apple’s new ‘pregnant man’ and ‘pregnant person’ emojis are the latest attempt to erase women and their lived experience as women from reality.
We have previously written about the importance of language, and the attempt to erase women with terms like “pregnant person”, “birthing people”, “uterus owners”, “menstruators”, “chestfeeding” in various “inclusive” guidelines, explaining that “these terms are all dehumanising, and serve to erase women from the reality of their own biology and lived experience, denying them the uniqueness of their role as mothers”.
We have stated the obvious time and again that “Men cannot be pregnant, give birth, or be mothers and there is nothing discriminatory about this self-evident reality”. Transmen can only become pregnant and give birth because they are biologically female i.e. women.
As critics of the new emojis have expressed, the effect – if not the purpose – of introducing ‘pregnant man’ and ‘pregnant person’ emojis into the ordinary ‘language’ of smartphone users, will be to further legitimise the absurd idea that men can become pregnant (and indeed have a right to be so), to blur the lines between the sexes, and to further erase the category of woman.
It is insidious, because even if they are not condoned by a majority at the outset, over time, their use – along with efforts to erase women in other spheres – will contribute to desensitising people to the biological distinctions between men and women and the immutable reality that only women can become pregnant and give birth.